In April 2019, ASX-listed explorer Tietto Minerals announced it had grown its resource at the Abujar gold project in Côte d‘Ivoire by 146% to 1.73 million ounces (Moz), including a high grade core of 1.06 Moz at 2.1 g/t Au. This substantial resource upgrade is the latest major success achieved by the company at its flagship West African project since going public in January 2018. “The new estimation of 1.73 Moz is a substantial increase over our previous resource,” says managing director Caigen Wang. “The update gives the market and our investors increased confidence that the project has further resource growth upside, because only a small portion of our overall 70 km mineralised structure has been tested.”
The Abujar project is comprised of three contiguous tenements totalling 1,114 km² in central Western Côte d‘Ivoire, and it remains largely underexplored as attested to by Wang, with 90% of the 70 km long shear zone still to be tested by Tietto.
A significant resource upgrade
The April resource upgrade was based on 26,000 metres of successful reverse circulation (RC) drilling and diamond drilling (DD) on the middle tenement across two areas: the Abujar-Gludehi (AG) and Abujar-Pischon-Golikro (APG) deposits.
The AG deposit currently has a JORC 2012 resource of 26.4 million tonnes (Mt) at 1.6 g/t for 1.38 Moz, having been extended along strike, down dip and towards depth in the previous drilling campaign.
In addition, around 85% of the AG Resource is defined within 1.4 km of strike along AG line 15-29, which has been estimated to contain 15.7 Mt at a higher grade of 2.1 g/t for 1.06 Moz.
Meanwhile, the APG deposit is located just 5 km South of the AG deposit and the resource is estimated to be 11.2 Mt at 1.0 g/t for 0.35 Moz.
“In terms of mineralisation structures, we are rapidly expanding the resource along strike and down dip along this major shear corridor. At the same time, the tenor and width of drilling intercepts give us encouragement that Abujar is on the way towards becoming a large gold mining operation.”
Year-end drilling campaign
Tietto will now look to complete a 30,000 metres combined DD and RC/AC drilling campaign during the rest of the year, using its own company-owned rigs, ahead of an additional resource upgrade before the end of 2019.
The drilling will focus primarily on extending the AG deposit along strike and to a vertical depth of 350 metres, along with the APG deposit which to date has only been drilled to very shallow depths, averaging less than 120 metres.
In July the company announced the discovery of an entirely new gold‐mineralised shear zone parallel to the Abujar Resource, after fresh rock samples exposed by large scale artisanal workings returned one grade of 50.8 g/t Au in an elevated gold zone.
Tietto’s managing director is very encouraged by the new discovery at the Abujar–Potoco Prospect (APP), approximately 900 metres east of the Abujar shear, and the company has mobilised one of its three DD rigs to drill below the artisanal pit at Potoco.
Côte d’Ivoire’s ASM industry
Workings left behind by artisanal miners across the tenement areas at Abujar have previously helped Tietto identify where mineralisation was taking place at the project, with artisanal and small scale mining (ASM) continuing to resemble a major feature of the mining industry in Côte d‘Ivoire.
Recognising the ongoing presence of the ASM sector and its contribution to livelihoods in rural communities, the Ivorian Government has taken steps to ensuring the practise can take place side-by-side with the nascent industrial scale mining industry.
“First of all, illegal miners are not allowed to undertake any mining activities on the tenement licences of exploration companies,” explains Wang.
“At the same time, the government has set up a number of small scale mining districts where we as industrial mining companies are not allowed to apply for exploration licences. Instead they are designated for small scale alluvial mining or ASM.”
The establishment of specific areas for small scale miners removed from licenced exploration zones has gone someway to alleviating tensions between the two groups, while also paving the way for the formalisation of the ASM sector.
Formalisation is a vital process for ASM in order to reduce environmental impact and health and safety risks to those engaged in the sector, of which there were 100,000 people working directly on ASM in Côte d‘Ivoire, according to estimates from 2016.
Developing an attractive mining jurisdiction
Along with beginning to regulate small scale mining activity across the country, the Ivorian Government and the Ministry of Mines has made it a vital priority to support exploration and mining companies investing into the sector, particularly since the introduction of the 2014 Mining Code.
The code set a goal of developing the most attractive mining code in West Africa, which would dovetail with the underexplored nature of Côte d‘Ivoire’s position extending across 34% of the highly mineralised Birimian Greenstone Belt to create an attractive proposition for investors into the sector.
“Côte d‘Ivoire has created very good fiscal regimes for investment in the gold sector. They have a five-year tax-free holiday starting from commercial production. They have reasonably low corporate tax after that and their royalties regime is also attractive,” Wang highlights.
The impact of the investment-friendly mining code has been tangible in Côte d‘Ivoire’s gold sector, with production growing from 630,000 oz per year to 900,000 oz per year between 2014 and 2018. This 40% increase in just four years can be directly attributed to the enabling environment provided by the fiscal regimes of the new code.
“From our own experience, the government quickly granted us an exploration licence in 2014 and has worked closely with us ever since to ensure the project runs smoothly.
“From the local communities to local and central government, they are all very comfortable with what we are doing and each group has suggested we put in an application for a mining licence as soon as we can.”
In June, Tietto’s board of directors held a strategic planning meeting which laid out several objectives for the year-end and beyond. First, the additional resource update is slated for around November 2019. Secondly, Tietto would then seek to advance scoping studies, followed by a PFS commencing in first half 2020.
Given the recent upward movement in the gold price, now is a good time to be a gold producer and Wang believes it is only a matter of time before Tietto can complete its feasibility studies for the Abujar project and build the mine.
“Since we started the project in 2014, everything has moved smoothly. We don’t see any significant difficulties or challenges ahead of us in the progression of the project or the eventual development of the mine.
“We are very excited about the progress we have been making and we fully expect to deliver on our short-term and long-term targets,” he concludes.